Pilots Packin' This Week

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There could be an armed pilot locked behind a reinforced cockpit door at the controls of your next airline flight. The TSA said last week the first class of 48 "federal flight deck officers" were to have completed their weeklong training program on Saturday. Those pilots would then be authorized to carry a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol into the cockpit to defend against would-be hijackers, terrorists and other pernicious ne'er-do-wells. During the week, the pilots learned how to use the gun and also studied defensive tactics to foil anyone intent on taking over the plane. Graduates will need annual recertification of those skills. Passengers will almost certainly never see the guns, unless, of course, they have to be used. The program requires that the guns be carried to and from the cockpit in a locked case and that the case be kept in another bag in the cockpit. "We've been working to keep guns out of airplanes for a long time," TSA Adm. James Loy told Dow Jones Newswires. "We think it should stay that way." The TSA was ordered to get the program going by Congress, but Congress didn't provide any funding, so the agency had to find $500,000 in its own budget to fund the first class. Training and equipment cost about $6,200 for each pilot. The White House has asked for $20 million to fund the training over the coming year. Only a fraction of the roughly 100,000 eligible airline pilots are expected to take part in the program.